Saturday, 24 January 2009

Know it all?

There is an expectation on the part of delegates that the trainer they are listening to knows a good deal more about the subject than they do. And quite right too ! However, the fact is that no trainer or anyone else for that matter can know EVERYTHING about a subject.
In fact, it is because this is the case that I enjoy my job so much. I start every event with the thought foremost in my mind, "I do NOT know it all". As a result, I welcome questions that stretch me. If I encounter a question that I haven't heard before or don't know the answer to, I will give my best guess and present it as such. However, at the very next opportunity I will do some research or experimenting in order to come back with the correct answer. I aim to have no questions unanswered by the end of each course.
The alternative is not a good place. i.e. flatly refusing to acknowledge that you don't know something in case it diminishes any 'power' or credibility you might have with the group.
I clearly remember an incident with a colleague many years ago (late 80s). Credibility (and masculinity) was a big thing with this guy. Early on in the course (one of the 10 week government sponsored training type courses where unemployed people learn something like C++ and hopefully find a job at the end) he was asked a question that he plainly didn't know the answer to (not having actually been a programmer).
Rather than saying that he didn't know but he would look into it, he came out with a long winded, nonsensical answer which had "I'M BLUFFING!" in six foot neon written all over it. The questioner challenged his answer at which point the trainer launched into a tirade which included phrases such as "How dare you question me!", "You must be joking!", "How would YOU know?".
That day he lost all respect with that particular group. A group who had to sit through a further five or more weeks of a course they were pretty sure their trainer didn't know.
Another memory illustrates the point in another way perhaps. I had to deliver the same five day course, four times back to back. A MOC 2310 ASP.NET course I think. By the fourth event I was just on auto pilot. Skipping most analogies, examples and jokes because I was pretty sure I had already used them.
I didn't miss out on any content because there was/is a structure to the course. However, because I "wasn't on the edge", I must have come across as a robot.
What brought this on ?
Two things.
I have been busy prepping demos and labs for the forthcoming Windows Presentation Foundation WPF readiness training for Microsoft as part of their METRO program.
These demos and labs involve the use of snippets in Visual Studio 2008. Not only are they of use to developers, they are also perfect for demos so that delegates don't have to sit and watch you type hundreds of lines of code.
So there I was trying out the demos and memorising the names of the snippets when I was cast back to this time last year. I was in Oslo to deliver one of the first Visual Studio 2008 and .Net 3.5 readiness courses for Microsoft.
The event was held at ProgramUtvikling AS that is run by a team of wonderful people (hello Kjersti and Arne !).

Whilst reminiscing about my week in Oslo, I thought of snippets. The Visual Studio 2008 course covered a vast area including Visual Studio 2008, Language enhancements, LINQ, ASP.NET AJAX, Windows Presentation Foundation - WPF, Windows Communication Foundation - WCF, Windows Workflow Foundation - WF.

As you can imagine, with that much to show off and demo, there were up to 100 snippets to memorise and use. I managed pretty well (I thought) for my second teach. I got through every demo without a hitch except the one where I tried to use the VideoBrush instead of VisualBrush when doing a WPF demo.

Like a bunny in the headlights I just looked at the code whilst 32 delegates looked at me and couldn't for the life of me see what I had done wrong. I finally remembered that VideoBrush was for Silverlight and not WPF ! Phew !

So I wrap up and delegates are heading off for trains and planes when one of the delegates walks over and quietly (bless you Arjan Einbu!) asks [at this point I should mention that the vast majority of the demos were written as Console applications] why I hadn't used the CW snippet?


Come clean time. I hadn't forgotten it. I didn't even know it existed!

So I am sitting here reminiscing about Oslo and snippets and have just remembered (fondly) my last night. I had to stay an extra night which happened to be the day before my birthday.

A number of us went for a fantastic meal (thank you Kjersti) and afterward went to a 'typical' British pub/bar called Churchill's.

Here is a description that I have just pulled off the net: "Churchill's, undoubtedly the finest 'English style' pub in Oslo, and the meeting place for many ex-pats. The cluttered decor reminds one of a typical English country pub and is highly recommended."
Now I have been into pubs up and down the land (England) but I cannot think of a single "typical English country pub" that had 1/16th scale models of Spitfires and Messerschmitt 109's mid dog fight hung from the ceiling. Nor for that matter, one that has upwards of 36 (I counted) artistic pictures of nude or topless women.

I had a great night. Particularly when it turned midnight and became my impromptu birthday party. Strangers from all around the bar came over to wish me a happy birthday. The landlord even stuck a candle in a cream cake for me. Not a party cake candle mind you but a bloody big red one that would look more at home shoved in the top of an old bottle of Chianti.

Two and a half hours later I remembered that I had to catch a train to the airport in less than two hours and I was in a bar and hadn't packed!. It was then that I noticed that the clientele had dwindled to myself and Dr Nic Williams (Mr Ruby on Rails himself) (What a very very very nice man!).

Good night!
See you soon

Phil Stirpé
"I don't do average!"


Is it safe ?

"Guess the film ? Clue: dentist. Too late, The Marathon Man."

For some weeks now, I have been awaiting my deluxe trainer's pack from Microsoft for the next readiness event that I am due to deliver: Windows Presentation Foundation - WPF.

For a long time now I have been delivering Visual Studio 2008 and .Net 3.5 Framework readiness to Microsoft partners in the UK and Europe along with Silverlight to partners as far away as

Although WPF has been on the margins all that time, it hasn't been given the attention that it deserved. Well starting next month, I will begin delivering WPF to Microsoft partners. Starting with the United Kingdom.

As you can imagine, in order to prepare for a high profile event like this, I like to be well prepared. That means that I know every demo and lab backwards and can deliver a Powerpoint deck without the good old glance over the shoulder.

So it will be no surprise that I was getting concerned that my trainer's pack hadn't arrived. Despite assurances from Microsoft that it had been posted in December, the couriers (Interlink "in association with DHL") hadn't delivered.

Now I realise that by living on a farm and having an unmade road lead to my door might cause the more anal driver to be concerned about the mud, however I do have an address and postcode (zip) so where is the problem ?

Anyhow, my contact at Microsoft (hello Mary !) kindly looked into it for me and sent me a tracking form from DHL. It said that the package had been "Left as instructed" on December 6th. i.e. last week.

Whoa ! Left where exactly and by whom ?

So after checking every outbuilding adjacent to the house I then popped next door (that would be the next farm along rather than the door next to mine !).

"No. Not been given a parcel for you. Sorry."

Microsoft kindly offer to send a replacement to a local(ish) training centre. I decide that this is a good plan because it is a building with a postcode(zip) and a tarmaced (asphalt)road. And most important: a receptionist !. Never mind the two hour round trip to collect the parcel when it arrives, should I actually have a free day to do so.

All this is finalised by last night and so I go to bed pretty relaxed.

This morning I returned from the school run to find a card through the door.

"We tried to deliver a parcel today. It's safe. We left it next door".

That would be the next farm along rather than the door next to mine !.

So I pop up the lane to collect a parcel that I know cannot be the deluxe trainer pack from Microsoft. I was correct. It wasn't. But then my neigbour said:

"You'll never guess ...".

The courier who delivered the parcel this morning said to my neighbour:

"Did you find the parcel that I left for you last week ?".


"No, what parcel ?"


"The one I left in your woodshed. You did get the note didn't you ?"


"Er. No."

What a Muppet !

Now I grant you. A wood shed is "sort of" safe. In that it kept my parcel out of the rain. However, those in the UK will know that we in Lancashire (and that includes Burnley !) hit -7 degrees in the last few days.

I am pleased to report that those files that I have had a quick look at appear intact. Probably helped by the fact that the all important DVD was nested within the snazzy branded polo shirt that trainers are asked to wear when delivering the material.

The brand by the way is Metro. This is the name given to Microsoft's readiness program.

So all's well that ends well.

Lesson. I shall not send anything to myself with Interlink because the guy who has my route is obviously a Muppet !

Aside. If you were a Muppet. What Muppet would you be ?

So there I was, taking a walk at lunch time. I had been staring at the screen for 4 hours straight and needed some air. My wife wanted to walk the dogs and so the world was in harmony.

We took a regular route around the bridle way which at one point runs adjecent to the cross Pennine rail line from Burnley to Leeds. Actually, it runs from Blackpool to York but Burnley and Leeds are the only two stops that count. It's a route I take whenever I am working in the
Leeds office.

I looked across the cutting to see a guy with a chainsaw starting to cut into the base of a tree that he had already de-limbed. Is that pollarding ?. So he has removed every branch of this tree and has only the trunk left. This is a 40 foot or more trunk. It stands at the top of the cutting on the far side of his garden fence. Most importantly, it sits, directly above both lines.

Now I know it's the house holder because he isn't wearing any special "I'm an official Network Rail contractor" clothing. In fact he is simply wearing a woolen hat. i.e. no equipment at all ! The other give away was where he had removed a fence panel from the end of his garden to step through onto private land to cut down a tree that doesn't belong to him.

Most startling was that now that he was on his final stage. He hadn't secured the tree in any way. So when he made his final cut, the tree was either going to fall northwards and land in his garden taking out his fence and shed as it fell. Or It would fall North North East (NNE) and do the same to his neighbours fence and shed. Or any other direction and fall/slide down the embankment onto (at least) the west bound (Leeds) line.

Luckily there was a signal box half a mile away so that we were able to run ahead and warn the signalman that there was a muppet with a bobble hat and chainsaw loose further up the line. I look forward to reading the
Burnley Express to see if there is any mention of the incident.

Is the Trans Pennine line safe ? Not with that muppet with a chainsaw !

So two Muppets in one week. What muppets would they be ?

Ernie !


Should you require any training in WPF, QA offer the following course:

Developing Windows Presentation Foundation applications with Visual Studio 2010 and Expression Blend 4

See you soon

Phil Stirpé
"I don't do average!"

Silverlight - Let it Snow

Sticking with the Silverlight 2.0 theme (as opposed to painting soldiers), I recently added a Silverlight application to my site entitled Silverlight - Let it Snow.

It is based upon a lab that delegates complete on a Silverlight course that I deliver. In fact, it is the exact same lab with a little festive music added.
If you want to try the application (and I recommend that you do), simply follow the link, make sure that your speakers are on and wait a couple of seconds for the music to kick in. Mulled wine optional !
Here's what I was looking at last week when my eyes weren't on the screen !
I do love the snow .


In the meantime should you require any training in Silverlight, QA offer the following courses:

Developing Rich Internet Applications Using Microsoft Silverlight 4


Developing Silverlight Applications with Visual Studio 2010 and Expression Blend 4

See you soon

Phil Stirpé
"I don't do average!"